Orangutans are one of humankind’s closest cousins.
The incredibly intelligent, tree-dwelling apes create and use tools and can memorize intricate maps of the rainforest as they forage for food.
In the wild, they found only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in Southeast Asia, but their numbers have fallen dramatically and they are now threatened with extinction as millions of acres of their rainforest habitat is cut down each year to make way for palm oil plantations. Infant orangutans are also sold into the pet trade, usually after their mothers have been slaughtered.
That makes caring for orangutans in captivity and raising awareness of their plight particularly important.
Chicago Tonight recently went along one rainy morning to Brookfield Zoo as two of their orangutans, Sophia and her infant baby Heidi, were given a physical.
Ordinarily, Sophia would have a physical every two years, but because she has a young infant, she hasn’t had a medical exam since 2015.
“Her having an infant complicates it a bit,” says Dr. Michael Adkesson, vice president of clinical medicine for the Chicago Zoological Society. “We don’t want to intervene when the infant is too young and disrupt that bonding or cause any sort of distress. Heidi is about 18 months right now so this is a perfect age for us to be getting a good thorough check up on her.”
Find out more about the orangutans at Brookfield Zoo as well as efforts to help save them from extinction in the wild.